Article Review -- By: Anonymous
CTSJ 4:4 (October 1998) p. 48
“Does Assurance Belong to the Essence of Faith? Calvin and the Calvinists,” by Joel R. Beeke, The Masters Seminary Journal, Spring 1994, pp. 43–71. Reviewed by Dr. Stephen Lewis, Professor of Church History at Chafer Theological Seminary and Pastor of Family Heritage Church in La Quinta, California.
Paul Helm writes in his book titled Calvin and the Calvinists that “If we take Calvin’s definition of faith.., then the only conclusion that is possible to come to is that he is inconsistent. For… he is sometimes happy to allow that there may be faith without assurance and indeed that all faith is incompletely assured. And yet, if he defines faith in terms of assurance, then no one can have faith who lacks assurance.” Helm’s goal was to defend Puritan theology as the same as Calvin’s own teachings. Is this a trend, or what?! Poor Calvin! Many want to claim that they are the “true” lineage or the interpreters of Calvin.
Add another one to the list. Joel R. Beeke (Pastor of the First Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan) sets out to demonstrate that Calvinists such as Alexander Comrie (a representative of the Dutch Second Reformation) held “essentially the same position as Calvin in mediating between the view that assurance is the fruit of faith and the view that assurance is inseparable from faith” (p. 43). He believes he answers the question that centers on a relevant issue of church history: “whether or not the Calvinists differed from Calvin himself regarding the relationship between faith and assurance” (p. 43).
Beeke defines assurance as the “certainty of one’s salvation” (p. 43). He holds that assurance is recognizable by its fruit and is a “Spirit-applied” certainty. The essential question is, “Does assurance belong to the essence of faith? There are two schools of interpretative thought, which have evolved. One is the view that the Reformers left the issue of assurance and faith incomplete, leaving it to the post-reformation pastors to develop it. The other view holds that the Reformers and Calvin left no room for change (or evolution) and that assurance is found in Christ alone.
Beeke sides with the latter view and sees the discrepancy between Calvin and Calvinism on faith and assurance as largely quantitative and methodological. In addition, he states that the post-reformation pastors when confronted with the lifestyles of Christians began to evaluate the
CTSJ 4:4 (October 1998) p. 49
validity of Scripture according to lifestyles. Yet as pastors who witnessed the struggle (with biblical data, exegesis, and hermeneutics) declared that the scriptures present a tension between a “‘vital faith...
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